Does the film industry need QC!
Tamil Cinema  

What is the probability that a film garners widespread positive public opinion? Or, what is the percentage of films that get positive opinions? We might not have a definitive answer, but surely know that the percentage is very low, maybe below 10%. It is a well known fact that out of the 100+ films that released last year, less than 10 managed to pull back their investment which means that around the same number of films managed to gather positive word of mouth which translates directly into collections.

Now, this is not a lament about the falling standards of Tamil cinema and how even big star films fall flat. The fact is that the 10% upper ceiling for positive opinion exists in all film industries. Almost 90% of the films released end up with them being branded as ‘mokkai(s)’, or even worse, sink without generating even a negative opinion. Even in the Malayalam film industry, which has the reputation of churning out good scripts and stories, the 10% ceiling holds true. Be it in Bollywood, Hollywood or any film industry in the world, most films that roll out end up on the

wrong side of public opinion. 90% products failing to satisfy customers: that will be considered as a serious, almost lethal shortcoming for any industry. But, the film industry has managed to live with this for many years and will continue to live on.

It is not surprising however that this happens, because the film industry seems to have no ‘quality control’ department. World over, it is a practice in any standard industry to have a quality control (QC) department. Every product rolling out the industry is double checked for quality and anything that falls below standard is rejected, never to be released into the market. i.e. every industry does time and again make products that do not meet quality standards and specifications. But, QC ensures that such products never reach the consumer, thus maintaining customer satisfaction. It seems to be only the film industry where any product, irrespective of how good or bad it is, manages to find its way into theaters leaving unfortunate audiences grumpy and unhappy.

Manufacturing of substandard products is not unusual or unworthy in any industry. But, when an industry fails to identify the substandard product and stop it from reaching consumers, it is not functioning professionally. And, to identify a substandard product, there needs to be an independent QC department that is fully functional.

Of course, the film industry is not like any other industry. It is filled with unpredictability and uncertainties, is driven by the fickle taste of the audiences and there cannot be a ‘one size fits all’ approach. What looks good to one person need not necessarily impress the other and vice versa; just like each of us have our own set of favorite movies. The most important thing however is the amount of money involved. A fully finished film would have cost a few crores and to reject it because it did not meet QC standards would be cruel and impractical because there is no way of recovering the money that was spent.

So, what should the film industry do? Continue without a QC department as it has done all these years. That would be possible. But, one thing to keep in mind is that for every substandard product that reaches theaters, it is the film industry that loses credibility (especially when the producers go all over town proclaiming their films to be super hits). If the film industry indeed aspires to increase consistency of the quality of its output, a QC department is inevitable.

But, at what stage does it evaluate a film. Certainly not after its shooting has been completed. Perhaps, a finished script can be evaluated before being permitted to go on floors. Who would do that? The wise men, the grey heads in the industry – the men with a history of high quality standards.

In fact, QC does exist in some parts of the industry. For example, there are production houses like AVM, Madras Talkies, S Pictures and a few others who seem to have internal quality controls, which is why almost all films from these stables impress us. There are also individuals who have an intrinsic QC. There is no better example for this other than Dr. Kamal Haasan. He chooses only what passes his strict quality standards and we see the results in every film that he does.

Likewise, if there were a common, independent and fully functional QC for the industry, one thinks that it would work wonders to the credibility of our cinema. Is this wishful thinking?

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